Lita made an immediate impact after coming on in the first half when Dave Kitson suffered concussion following a collision with Preston goalkeeper Carlo Nash. Five minutes later the Congo-born forward, who has been picked by Peter Taylor for the latest England Under-21 squad, latched on to a probing pass from Irishman Kevin Doyle and scored the winner from an acute angle.
Murty said: "Leroy came in and scored a great goal from a difficult angle. He had barely half a chance to score from that position, but he did it. He always tries to score a goal. You can't take it away from him. As a defensive player, I have to encourage him to go out and do his thing."
The Reading manager, Steve Coppell, was delighted to see normal service resumed following a 3-2 defeat by Luton Town in their previous game. That loss was only their second League defeat of the season.
Coppell, however, pointed out that despite his goal, Lita's potential still requires polishing. He said: "His overall contribution against Preston wasn't the best, but he made a great contribution with the goal he scored."
Coppell added further praise for the character of Lita, who has recovered from the night-club incident in which he suffered a facial injury. He said he was impressed that Lita had shown a determination to put football at the forefront of his mind, but he would not keep the young match-winner on a tighter leash in future.
The manager said: "He was out with his girlfriend and somebody thought it would be a good idea to attack him. As a young man in that environment he is targeted. I can't tell a 21-year-old 'don't go out and enjoy yourself'. He may look for better places to enjoy himself next time though."
In a game where both sides struggled to cope with a high wind, Reading went ahead after six minutes when Nash's spilled clearance found its way to Steve Sidwell who poked home his 10th goal of the season.
The Scotland international Callum Davidson equalised two minutes later with a 25-yard free-kick to revive Billy Davies' side hope of extending their unbeaten League sequence to 24 games before Lita's winner put paid to that.
Goals: Sidwell (6) 1-0; Davidson (8) 1-1; Lita (45) 2-1.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Oster (Hunt, 85), Harper, Sidwell (Gunnarsson, 62), Convey; Kitson (Lita, 40), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Makin.
Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Mears, Mawene, Davis, Hill; Sedgwick (Whaley, 61), O'Neil, McKenna, Davidson; Nugent (Agyemang, 74), Ormerod (Dichio, 81). Substitutes not used: Alexander, L Neal.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).
Booked: Preston Davis, Hill, O'Neil.
Man of the match: Murty.